Why all the Straight Lines?

It is definitely very interesting to see how the London underground map has evolved over the years and how important to it was and still is the contribution made my designer Harry Beck.

Before 1933 I think it would have been a wonder for anyone to get to where they would want to using the old underground maps. To me they all seem so confusing just at the sight of them. Especially the ones that were leading up to Harry Becks design. I am especially given a headache when I look at the map from the year 1913. It looks to me like someone dropped a bunch of liquorice strings on top of a map of London and then stepped on them. Of course these maps are obviously more geographically accurate, but they lack something, or better put, they have too much. I think the term “less is more” comes to mind.

This is the wonderfulness that Harry Beck brings to his designs: less.

This whole situation reminds me of the film Helvetica (2008) and the way that the typeface made such an impact when it was introduced in the design world. It went from the cheesy hand script font graphic design into the very clear, crisp look that we use today. Come to think about it this is the way that most modern design is done nowadays.

By having less detail on the map one is more able to concentrate on the task that is at hand: getting from A to B. the whole map has a more “cleaner” look, it is much easier to read and understand. Although now the tube routes are just a series of straight lines most of which have 90 degree angle bends, I really don’t think anybody cares, its pretty dark down there anyway.


A History of the London Tube Maps. (n.d.). Retrieved may 10, 2010, from A History of the London Tube Maps: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clivebillson/tube/tube.html


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